September 24, 2011
By Kevin Allen, The South Bend Tribune
SOUTH BEND - With several colleges and universities, a beautiful river, a strong work force and a tradition of manufacturing, South Bend has what it needs for a healthy economy.
The three men running to be the city’s next mayor agreed on that point last week during a candidates’ forum at the Elks Lodge on McKinley Avenue, where many of the audience’s questions focused on economic issues.
The differences among Democrat Pete Buttigieg, Republican Wayne Curry and Libertarian Patrick Farrell emerged as they talked about how they would capitalize on the city’s assets.
Buttigieg said business leaders and city officials need to chart a new direction for South Bend’s economy. The former business consultant added that South Bend needs some salesmanship, a mayor who understands how to talk with people in business and an education strategy that will produce workers with skills local firms need.
“Only a mayor,” he said, “has the platform to connect all the different parts of our community - the educational system and the economy, business decision-makers and the local government.”
Curry, a carpenter and construction contractor, said competing better regionally is the first step toward making South Bend more attractive to investors outside Michiana.
“If we can’t compete with the city of Mishawaka and Elkhart and the county, we’re not going to be able to compete outside that area,” he said. “The more we compete with one another around here, that makes our area more competitive outside of our region.”
Farrell, a former automotive manager and part-owner of Farrell Finishing, emphasized his business experience while criticizing city expenditures on land deals, such as the $1.2 million spent to buy a Family Dollar store on East LaSalle Avenue with the intention of donating the property to St. Joseph’s High School.
“I have spent a lot of millions of dollars of somebody else’s money,” he said, referring to his time running businesses, “but I spent it with their permission.”
Farrell added that he wants to develop a public broadcasting channel for South Bend, so people could follow city issues and be better informed about government decisions.
Curry also criticized city spending on private development projects. He said that money would be more beneficial it were spent to clean up neighborhoods, fix streets and sidewalks, and make the city more attractive.
“Once we make our neighborhoods better and have a safer city,” he said, “we’re actually going to be able to attract more people to our community.”
Buttigieg said he has counted about 40 organizations that work on economic development in the city. Those groups are full of good people with good intentions, he said, but their efforts need to be coordinated to be more effective. His plan is to create an economic council for the groups to determine better ways to work toward their common goal.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good people tripping over each other,” he said.